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Story of Legendary World War II Hero Alex Vraciu '41 Told by California Newspaper

February 24, 2003

February 24, 2003, Greencastle, Ind. - "Alexander Vraciu was born in East Chicago, Indiana on November 2, 1918, nine days before the end of World War I, to Romanian immigrant parents," writes California's Contra Costa Times. "He was the youngest of two children. He excelled at sports and schoolwork and won an academic scholarship to DePauw University. He played halfback and linebacker on DePauw's football team against his parent's wishes, hiding his involvement, and a knee injury, from them. He thought about becoming a doctor." Instead, as the lengthy article illustrates, Alex Vraciu, a 1941 graduate of DePauw, went on to become a legendary hero of World War II.

At DePauw, Thomas Peele writes, "Once, in a psychology class, the professor put students through a series of exercises examining if the mind recorded accurately images of sudden events. Vraciu decided he could provide a better example than the unsuspecting teacher. He stood up, walked to an open second-floor window, and without a word, leapt. He landed, of course, on a tarpaulin that a bunch of his fraternity brothers held tightly. Soon, though, he would do another type of flying."

"Nineteen times over the Pacific he shot down enemy planes, nearly four times as many needed to qualify as an ace," Peele writes of Vraciu. "Only three other Navy pilots shot down more. He destroyed 21 planes on the ground, sunk an enemy ship with a single bomb, dove on countless strafing runs that killed countless enemy, twice ditched his fighter in the open sea and twice was aboard aircraft carriers that Japanese submarines torpedoed."

Peele notes, "As America heads toward war, Alex Vraciu knows war as few men do. He is of the generation that saved the world from tyranny, men who from crackling radios late at night heard Winston Churchill call for the destruction of "evildoers" before George W. Bush was even born. They die now at a rate of about 1,100 day, veterans of the North Atlantic, the North African campaign, D-Day, Midway, the Philippines." Now 84, Vraciu is dedicated to caring for his wife, Kathryn. But the mail still brings letters from autograph seekers. The phone still rings, the callers looking for a hero, the warrior at twilight."

You can read the entire article at the Times Web site by clicking here. Alex Vraciu's legacy is also noted in the book, Fly Navy: Naval Aviators and Carrier Aviation, A History. Read more about it here.

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